Lyft Is Said to Weigh Purchase of Citi Bike Operator Motivate

(Bloomberg) -- Lyft Inc. is in discussions to acquire Citi Bike operator Motivate for $250 million, a person familiar with the matter said. The talks, first reported by technology website The Information, aren’t finalized, said the person, who asked to remain anonymous because the negotiations are private.

The acquisition, if it goes through, would thrust the second-largest U.S. ride-hailing company into the middle of the brewing war over electric scooters and bikes that’s beginning to roil American cities. Uber Technologies Inc. acquired Jump Bikes, an electric bike company, earlier this year.

Meanwhile, independent electric scooter companies are raising massive sums of money. Bird, founded by a former Lyft chief operating officer, is raising $150 million in a round led by Sequoia, Bloomberg reported earlier this week.

Motivate has the largest bike-share program in the U.S. with partnerships in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco and other cities. Its brand isn’t well known since it typically yields the name of its programs in each city to corporate sponsors. Its service is called Citi Bike in New York and Ford GoBike in San Francisco. Motivate has experimented with electric bikes, but primarily rents sturdy traditional bicycles.

A spokesman for Lyft declined to comment. Motivate didn’t immediately respond to request for comment.

Lyft saw its fortunes rise last year, gaining market share as Uber stumbled. In February, Lyft brought in a top Tesla executive as its chief operating officer.

Both Uber and Lyft could threaten their margins if they flood the market with electric bikes and scooters. Short ride-hailing trips, the type that could be disrupted by expanding electric bikes, can be among the most profitable for them.

Notably Lyft and Uber have eyed companies with collaborative ties to city governments. Motivate and Jump both struck agreements with local officials. Meanwhile, San Francisco has said electric scooters need to be gone by June 4, until they receive permits from the city, threatening Bird and competitor Lime. Spin, another electric scooter company, has already disappeared from San Francisco’s sidewalks.

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